In Search of the Perfect Manhattan

This particular post may cause some readers to think they’re on the wrong site, because today I got… dare I say it… downright domestic. The impetus? Trying to recreate the perfect Perfect Manhattan cocktail I had when I was last in, you guessed it, Manhattan.

The background: my sister and I started to drink them on a lark one night, as homage to our late mother. The manhattan had been her cocktail of choice, so when my sister ordered them for us, I was a little bit terrified: I had never enjoyed them when our mum had let us sip hers when we were growing up. As in, not ever.

My sister laughed at me choking down the first taste and gave me the sage advice that it takes until the fourth (yes, fourth) sip to begin enjoying them. Not only was she right, it has become my signature cocktail too; I have since done my best to try almost every version known to man. I now know that I prefer a Perfect Manhattan (equal parts sweet and dry vermouth) and I like it made with bourbon, not rye.

But then I went to New York. And one night at the Gramercy Park Hotel changed everything.

The answer: Brandied Cherries. From France, no less. Of course they were.

And yes, birds sang, the earth moved and angels appeared — they were THAT much better than the regular, super sweet maraschino variety.

So, I’m not really sure what possessed me to get all Martha today — it could be the fact that cherries are in season at the moment. Red, ripe and beautiful. It could be that I’ve never sourced the right ones since that fateful night in New York. But the other day, I became someone that my friends wouldn’t recognize: I went online and Googled how to make them myself. Cut to today: Freshly washed cherries, a recently purchased cherry pitter (who knew?) and a whole lot of enthusiasm.

In case you don’t know what a cherry pitter looks like, I took a photo, along with the mandatory rubber gloves. (While every website had a variation on the basic recipe, the one thing everyone could agree on was the necessity of rubber gloves!) Too bad mine were about 3 sizes too big… it made the job that much slower. Plus I chose to keep the stems on (more of an aesthetic thing than for any other reason), so it took even longer to get the job done.

The result: A glorious bowl of de-pitted (is that a word?) cherries, soaking in 2 cups of fine French brandy. And the little bowl next to it, proudly showing the fruits of my labour. Pun intended. The cherries will soak overnight and then tomorrow I will tackle the next steps: making a simple syrup and then bottling them. Who knows? This might be the start of a brilliant new side business… I’ll keep you posted when I finally get to try one in my first Perfect Perfect Manhattan. Supposedly around 6 weeks from now…